When talking about study abroad, many people who don’t know much about it think that the options are very limited: you study abroad your sophomore or junior year in college, and you usually go to someplace like Rome and have classes that don’t take much effort, and you go travel cool places on weekends.
The traditional way of studying abroad, which is to sign up for a program offered by your university, is still the most popular and the easiest.
Though this is one type of studying abroad that exists (though not my favorite and it definitely won’t help you culturally) there are so many wonderful ways to study abroad -- so if that first stereotype doesn’t fit you for any reason, fear not!
This article will save you from the bland and help you figure out which way to study abroad is right for you, and, more importantly, it’ll make you love the idea of studying abroad!
1. Traditional Program through your University
The traditional way of studying abroad, which is to sign up for a program offered by your university, is still the most popular and the easiest. Courses transfer easily (since they're already approved) and sometimes they will even process your visa applications for you!
Plus, because you are going through a program directly affiliated and controlled by your university, there is a chance that the semester may even be less expensive than it would be to stay on campus.
However, not all universities have the same level of options -- let alone any! -- and the programs offered directly though your university may not match your study abroad goals or be relevant to your major. This is usually when students look for other ways to study abroad.
2. Programs through a Third Party Provider
If your university doesn’t have a program with the focus, location, or dates that you're looking for, don’t give up the fight! This doesn’t mean you can’t study abroad!
There are tons of companies that work within education so that all students, regardless of their major or collegiate situation, can get their semester (or longer!) abroad. Third party providers also have a much wider variety of options for students who can't study abroad for a whole semester or year, and need to study abroad in the summer instead.
In the study abroad world, we call this studying abroad with a "third party provider". Sometimes, universities with few study abroad options will have already established relationships with a couple of program providers (meaning, your credits will transfer easily), so check with your study abroad office about this from the get go.
If they don't have any established relationships, well, the world's your oyster. You can start your research with Go Overseas' list of study abroad programs. Watch out though -- because it is an outside company, there's almost always a program fee for their services.
3. Direct Enrollment with a University Overseas
One way to study abroad that not many think of is directly enrolling in a university overseas. Rather than going through an organized program, you can directly enroll for a semester, year, or full degree at a university abroad.
Just because you may be a U.S. citizen doesn’t mean that your traditional education ends at the coast of the Pacific or Atlantic! Many colleges and universities abroad welcome international students with open arms (and at times, it can be less expensive than attending a school in the States -- among other numerous benefits of direct enrollment).
Plus, this can turn into a longer study time abroad, and you will miss the typical “study abroad” stereotypes that come with the traditional type of semester abroad!
Do note, however, that if you're applying for a university that doesn't do its courses in English, you'll have to already have a pretty good grasp of the local language. Not to worry though, there are quite a few international universities that teach in English.
4. Take a Global Independent Study
Independent studies are usually a research project that is completed by a student with a professor/mentor. Global, of course, would just be in another country -- meaning, by completing a global independent study, you're studying abroad.
Universities like Brown have a wonderful program laid out on their website to assist students in completing the requirements for an independent study.
Ask your study abroad office or your favorite professor if this is a possibility. Research what you’d like to study abroad, present it well, and you may be on your way to buying a flight!
5. Supplement a Course with Field Research Abroad
If individual research sounds like too much for you, there are still plenty of ways to complete research abroad for college credit. Are you a little more hands-on at school and can’t stand the thought of sitting in another classroom in another country?
Though it may not be as much credit as studying abroad, interning will help you learn and if you can't study abroad, it'll help you with the experience, while giving you work experience and life experience.
This option may be your best bet with programs like Institute for Field Research that’ll get you down and dirty in archeological digs, or Ecoteer that will help you dive into the depths off the coast of Cambodia to research the marine life. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there's a program for it.
Fulbright is another well known (though competitive) option to do research abroad.
6. Intern for School Credit
Though interning abroad is usually considered as the next step after college in order to get a job, you can still intern abroad for school credit before that graduation day -- and definitely learn a thing or two while you’re doing it!
Though it may not be as much credit as studying abroad, interning will help you learn and if you can’t study abroad, it’ll help you with the experience, while giving you work experience and life experience. Ask your study abroad office what internship is the most valued at your school to see what is offered, but regardless, know that interning will give you more education than you think!
7. Find a Service Learning Program
Though technically in another category altogether, volunteering abroad can still absolutely be studying -- because the things you’ll learn while volunteering may even stick better than that literature class you slaved through your freshman year.
Especially if you haven't yet received a degree, volunteering abroad with a service learning trip is a more responsible option for you. Rather than focusing on giving back to communities abroad, it focuses on teaching you about international development -- an absolutely educational experience for anyone who wants to work with development or humanitarian work post college.
Some offer college credit, others don’t – but the lessons learned from these opportunities go far beyond credits on a piece of paper!
8. High School Study Abroad
If you want to get a jump start on your study abroad experiences, going abroad in high school is gaining steam to be the runner up to studying college. Though in 2010 only 2,000 students in US high schools took the leap and went to study overseas, the percentage of those going abroad is increasing every year.
In high school, you can get started on your international education, make connections that will assist you in your higher education or career, and gain a perspective on the world that will change the way you value your own life experience and US culture!
9. Au Pair Abroad
Most students who don't study abroad quote money as their main excuse. But there are some ways around this -- one of which is au pairing abroad.
Although there are tons of au pair opportunities worldwide, several European countries encourage -- even require -- au pairs to take courses in the local language. If you choose your family or program right, those courses could even be paid for by the host family.
Maybe this list isn't based on tradition, but we are in a millennium of changes and international exploration!
Even if you don't get your language classes as part of an au pair package, you're still getting free room, board, and a weekly stipend (saving money, check!) and studying a language abroad (study abroad, check!). If your main intention for study abroad is to learn a new language, seriously guys, consider this.
10. Enroll at a Language School Abroad
Whether you're still enrolled in college, haven't yet started, or have graduated long ago, one last way you can study abroad is by enrolling in a language school abroad.
This is a little different than studying abroad through a third party provider, since many of those will include extras, like non-language courses, excursions, or set you up with a local university. Studying abroad a language school is just that: you take language classes, possibly live with a host family, and then petition the heck out of getting those credits to transfer back to your home university.
If you can't get credit for your language course abroad, no worries -- it could at least help you test out of French 101 and free up your schedule for something else.
Discover the World
Maybe this list isn’t based on tradition, but we are in a millennium of changes and international exploration! Take advantage of your youth and discovery of new places and faces. Your education can never be held within university walls. Get out there!
Photo Credits: Katherine Knecht and Sarah Perlmutter.